3230 22nd Street (between Mission and Bartlett)
San Francisco, CA 94107
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 5:30-10pm
Yet another “fusion” restaurant, nonetheless Lolo has captured my fancy as a great Mission addition and a step above the average Nuevo Latino spot. Combining cuisines of the owners’ homelands of Mexico and Turkey (with an unwitting touch of Asia?), Lolo’s servers are affable, aiming to please. The décor is inviting, funky, colorful… all made from recycled materials. Bright fabrics line the couch along the wall, with eye-catching wallpaper, paintings, knickknacks, and cute, retro lawn benches out front. The place feels ‘homemade with love’, appropriate for the Mission’s creative spirit, without looking too grunge or garage sale.
If you focus more on small plates, the real highlight here, you’ll savor delicious, unusual dishes. The much hyped menu king is Panko-breaded shrimp “tacos” with chipotle aioli and tropical fruit relish ($8), which may not sound revolutionary, but on a tortilla shaped sheet of jicama, delivers a surprising burst of crisp flavor. The downside? You only get two to an order. Pistachio Salmon is another favorite of mine: crunchy on the outside, seared inside, with an ideal accompaniment of wasabi cream and ponzu sauce. The Huitlacoche & Ricotta Dumplings are paired well with a fluffy corn sauce, even if the idea of eating Huitlacoche fungus, otherwise charmingly known as “corn smut”, throws some off. Dubbed by the James Beard Foundation as “the Mexican Truffle”, a more appealing term for corn fungus, Huitlacoche, paired with ricotta, is a unique, mild, taste experience. The breaded Baked Brie pops with a delectable hibiscus-juajillo sauce.
On the entrée side, I like Duck Confit Tacos ($15), though the portion is too small to fill the hot, homemade tortillas (more confit, please?) The dish is perfectly simple, accompanied by cilantro and a piquant sauce. Grass-fed Flank Steak is charcoal-grilled and served with crispy tortilla strips, but its strawberry peach mole tasted neither like strawberry or peach, though still pleasing.
Wines by the glass are overpriced, hovering in the teens, so imbibe Tuesdays and Wednesdays when they’re discounted 30%. Forgoing wine, I like a not-on-the-menu creation they call “Madre”, a refreshing, generous blend of white wine with strawberry, orange and cranberry juices.
If Lolo could work out minor issues such as price vs. portion size (none of the dishes need be much bigger than they are – just a slight increase would do), this could easily become not only a great neighborhood joint but a unique destination serving dishes with flare and flavor so memorable, you’ll want to experience them again.